OTTAWA -- So much of how we communicate is now covered by a mask. You cannot see a person’s smile, smirk or frown.

Julie Beun is a writer and marketing and communications specialist who appreciates the value of being able to read each other.

“Masks covered up one-fifth of our body language by covering our mouths,” she says. “Body language accounts for up to 65 per cent of communication, with how we use our mouths bearing a surprising amount of responsibility.”

Beun shares these examples: “Chewing on your lip can indicate anxiety and vulnerability; nibbling on it could be considered flirting. Sucking on your lips could mean you’re deep in thought.”

We now have to count on masks to help us express ourselves.

A few days into Ottawa’s lockdown the writer-turned-mask-maker started the stylish company AboutFace with the tag line, ‘mask your face, not your style.’

Beun had just returned to the capital from a ‘masked-up’ Europe.

She tells the story in the recent issue of Ottawa’s Lifestyle Magazine, “luxe”.

Beun encourages people to choose masks that reflect their personality.

“If we can’t read each other’s body language, we can certainly use fashion to express our attitudes.”

Many months into the pandemic, Beun shares her tips below.

How do you approach masks as an accessory?

  1. Expressing your style with masks is surprisingly simple if you stick to well-established basics familiar to every fashion slave: Foundation, Go-To and Statement.
  2. In fashion, foundation pieces are your favourite jeans and black t-shirt, your stylish-but-functional winter coat or the toque that looks good no matter what. They are the no-brainer, roll-out-of-bed basics of your look. With masks, foundation means solid colours, mostly but not exclusively neutrals like black, grey and jewel tones. They can be seasonal colours, too, with although black is the gold standard for minimalist style.
  3. Go-To pieces are all about your personal style and level of comfort: think of the funky jewelry that elevates your foundation look to the next level, the perfectly frayed jean jacket that serves no purpose other than  to look fabulous, the mid-blue sport jacket that adds that bit of polish to a polo shirt and Euro-cut flat-front pants. In masks, Go-To pieces pull it all together through funky patterns, complimentary colours that work with or stand out from your outfit and offer a bit of insight into your current mood.
  4. Statement is what every gala goer looks forward to: the absolute rock star outfit, shoes or earrings that shout who you are from the rooftops. In masks, they are the bold, graphic conversation starters that leave no doubt about your attitude and confidence.

How do you wear masks?

  1. Buy more than one. Most people have more than one pair of socks for a reason and they change/wash them regularly. Treat your masks like you do socks or undies. Change them often, wash them often.
  2. Avoid billboard masks. Everyone loves swag like free Sens ball caps or a free tshirt, but masks emblazoned with massive logos are different. They are right on your face and say more about the company advertising on your face for free than they do about you.
  3. Like undies, masks will wear out. And like undies, don’t try to fix them. As they are personal protection, once their integrity is compromised, it’s time to let them go.
  4. Store them in a bag, not under your chin. Unless you have some reason to do so, like you’re an ER doctor running out of surgery, masks stored under your chin look terrible and are collecting all the bacteria and possibly viruses on your chin and throat.